By Bob Tourtellotte
Hollywood studios and music companies hailed a ruling by the U.S
Supreme Court on Monday backing their position in a landmark copyright
case, saying it could spur the development of the Internet as a
commercial platform for distribuing movies and songs.
In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that
file-trading networks like Grokster and Morpheus can be held liable
when their users trade copyrighted material without permission,
clearing the way for a trial at a lower court.
Legal experts cautioned that it could still take years for the trial,
if it takes place, to work its way through a verdict and appeals.
But entertainment executives said the strength of the Supreme Court
decision in the case against Grokster could prompt file sharing
networks to begin using filtering software that would ensure songs and
videos downloaded across their networks are not illegal copies.
They also hope the Supreme Court decision will lead to greater use of
current, legal download services like Napster and iTunes for music or
Movielink and CinemaNow for films, industry representatives said.
"If the Supreme Court ... can come to a unanimous decision about this
case, surely the content industries like movies and music and the
high-tech sector can come together," said Dan Glickman, chief of the
Motion Picture Association of America.
"This decision will help spur that process," he told reporters.
An MPAA spokesman said the industry trade group would take a
"wait-and-see" approach to filing new lawsuits but would reserve the
right to file them.
Mitch Bainwol, chief of the Recording Industry Association of America,
said the groups also would not immediately approach the U.S. Congress
with proposals for new laws.
In recent years, content providers have sued computer networks that
offer software for downloading and trading songs and videos that have
been copied without paying a fee. Through the MPAA and the Recording
Industry Association of America, movie and music companies also sued
individuals and sought new laws to bar illegal downloads.
Content providers argue that illegal copying and swapping costs them
billions of dollars in lost revenues annually. Technology advocates
contend that shutting down file-sharing networks will stifle
The Supreme Court decision means the lower court can go ahead with a
trial, and technology companies said they welcomed the chance to argue
their case in the lower court.
"We are confident it will be proven that Morpheus does not promote or
encourage copyright infringement," said Michael Weiss, who heads
StreamCast Networks Inc, which was also a defendant in the Grokster
Jennifer Urban, a specialist in intellectual property law with the
University of Southern California, said a trial could take years if
fully tried and the outcome is appealed.
"This ruling says that if you actively promote (illegal downloading),
you might be liable. Now we have to find out exactly what that means,"
Attorney Carey Ramos, who had argued the case on appeal for
songwriters and publishers, said the Supreme Court's decision was so
strong that the lower court might bypass a full trial.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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